Redesigned this Spring, the 2000 Neon has more interior room, a quieter ride, more standard equipment, a bigger trunk and a new 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty. Prices now start at $17,995.
New Neon goes upmarket – adds 5-year powertrain warranty
With a base price of $17,995, the second-generation 2000 Chrysler Neon has evolved into a more expensive, better-equipped, more refined, and roomier compact sedan. The base model, now called LE, is equivalent to last year’s mid-level Highline model, and includes such standard equipment as air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette with six speakers, 60/40 folding rear seat, and body-coloured bumpers. In addition, a new five year/100,000 kilometre powertrain warranty is now standard on all Neons, making this the first domestic car to match the five year powertrain warranties offered by most import competitors.
Even so, the new Neon is about a thousand dollars more than the 1999 Highline, putting it into a higher price class than the previous model. The disappearance of the entry-level Neon leads me to speculate that Chrysler may be planning a new entry-level car, perhaps based on the Pronto concept car unveiled at auto shows a couple of years ago.
The new Neon is now called the Chrysler Neon. Dodge and Plymouth Neons are no longer available because under Chrysler’s new branding strategy, Dodge is concentrating on trucks only (except for the Viper), and Plymouth has shed all of its models except the Prowler. But don’t worry about finding a dealership that sells Neons: Chrysler cars are now sold at just about every Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth/Jeep dealer.
The 2000 Neon is offered with one body style and one engine: a four-door sedan with a 132 horsepower SOHC, 16 valve 2.0 litre four cylinder engine, the latter a refined version of last year’s base engine. The Neon’s DOHC 2.0 litre engine and 2-door body style have been axed this year, but may return next year.
While slightly bigger than the previous Neon, the new model doesn’t appear to be any bigger from the outside. The overall length has increased 66 mm (2.6 in.), the wheelbase has been stretched by 25 mm (1 inch), and the track (width between the wheels) is also slightly wider. As well, the base of the windshield has been moved forwards by 76 mm (3 inches).
The net result is a bigger passenger compartment, particularly in the rear where there is more headroom and shoulder room. To make getting in and out easier and to improve outward visibility, the passenger seats have been raised by 13 mm (0.5 inches). The trunk is also 10% bigger.
A redesigned interior features a centrally positioned console that’s closer to the driver, easier-to-see gauges, a new headlight switch on the stalk instead of the dash, and larger rotary controls for the heater/air conditioner. New front seats offer more lateral support than the previous seats.
Outward visibility is unobstructed by pillars, but the Neon’s sharply sloping hood and high rear window make it impossible to see the front of the car or the rear deck, making it difficult to judge distances when parking. The previous Neon had the same problem.
In redesigning, the Neon, Chrysler engineers addressed some of the Neon’s problem areas, in particular noise and vibration from the powertrain. New engine mounts, more sound insulation, a new air induction system, and a significantly stiffer body have reduced interior noise and vibration. In addition, new framed doors replace the frameless doors of the original Neon, reducing wind noise and vibration at higher speeds.
To improve the ride and reduce the chance of ‘bottoming out’ over bumps at high speed, the Neon’s ride height was raised slightly. Since a higher ride height detracts from handling, the new Neon has a new standard rear anti-sway bars and revised shock absorber valving to compensate.
The powertrain remains basically the same as before: a single overhead cam, 16 valve 2.0 litre four cylinder engine with 132 horsepower mated to a standard five-speed manual or optional 3-speed automatic transmission. While most of the Neon’s competitors offer optional 4-speed automatic transmissions, the Neon’s three-speed automatic has been retained. This is still a good transmission, though. It offers smooth shifts and a final drive ratio that allows reasonably low engine speeds at highway speeds.
With its fully independent suspension and a fairly wide track, the Neon remains a fun-to-drive, good-handling sedan. Standard front disc/rear drum brakes, now slightly larger, offer excellent stopping distances. Four wheel disc brakes with ABS are available as an option. One complaint: there’s no locking filler door or gas cap.
Standard equipment on base LE models includes power steering, AM/FM/cassette with six speakers, air conditioning, 60/40 split folding rear seat, floor console with armrest, four cupholders, 12 volt power outlet, variable intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, body-coloured bumpers, and 14 inch tires. LE optional features include three-speed automatic transmission, single CD player, tachometer, power windows and door locks, white-faced gauges, and anti-lock brakes with traction control.
Neon LX models add standard 15 inch tires, front fog lamps, power windows in the front doors, power door locks, remote keyless entry with panic alarm, tachometer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, power heated mirrors, rear head restraints, and front lumbar adjustment. Optional features are alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, and traction control.
Is the 2000 Neon worth the extra money? With a longer powertrain warranty, the Neon has an advantage over domestic cars like the Chevrolet Cavalier, Ford Escort, and Saturn SL2, and compares well, feature-for-feature, with imports like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.